A much-loved Morecambe entertainer was given a send-off fitting to his storied showbiz career at a service attended by his great friend, the TV comedian Harry Hill.
Singer, dancer and pantomime dame Ronné Coyles, who died on January 20 aged 86, was remembered appropriately with a light-hearted and poignant celebration of his life and 70-plus year career.
Harry himself gave the eulogy, speaking with great affection for Ronné.
The Harry Hill’s TV Burp star also brought a floral tribute which spelled out the word ‘Dad’ because pint-sized Ronné played the comic’s father on TV.
A note of tribute left by Harry said: “For Harry Hill Senior, thanks for all the fun.”
The service at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium on Tuesday was hosted by humanist funeral celebrant Graeme Flaxen.
A recording of the song ‘There’s No Business Like Showbusiness’ greeted mourners as they arrived at the service.
During Hill’s warm and humorous speech, there was laughter in the chapel as Harry told funny tales of working with Morecambe’s Mr Showbiz.
Harry explained how he recruited Coyles for his television shows in 2001.
Ronné, who started his showbiz career as a boy, was by then in his early 70s and in the twilight of his career.
He was recommended to Harry by the famous ventriloquist, Keith Harris, who worked with Coyles for years in panto all across the UK.
Keith sent Harry a video of Ronné on Michael Barrymore’s TV show ‘My Kind Of People’.
Harry was so impressed with Coyles’ entertainment skills that he handpicked the tiny pensioner to play comedic roles on The Harry Hill Show, TV Burp and kids programme Shark Infested Custard.
“These usually ended with Ronné tap dancing and being pelted with cabbages by the kids in the audience,” Harry told the packed Crematorium.
Harry also spoke about how he would ask Ronné to dress up for comic effect as celebrities such as strapping Olympic rower Sir Steven Redgrave or Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow, and as the Queen Mother at a book festival to help promote Hill’s book ‘The Further Adventures of the Queen Mum’.
There was a round of applause for the eulogy as Hill returned to his seat.
Earlier, Mr Flaxen spoke about Ronné’s early life.
He was born in March 1930 in Blyth, Northumberland, one of nine children.
The family didn’t have much and Ronné, who was small from an early age, and his brother used to sleep in drawers in a Tallboy dresser.
He left the area to move to London as a teenager to follow a career on screen and stage, appearing in films, working as a trapeze artist and an impressionist, as well as singing and dancing. He was also a panto regular for almost 70 years.
Mr Flaxen said that Dame Barbara Windsor, who sent Ronné Christmas cards each year, described him as her favourite pantomime dame.
Ronné moved to Morecambe in the mid-60s with his life partner and manager, the late Bob Pettigrew, and lived there for the rest of his life. They ran a fancy dress shop near The Carleton club for many years.
As the service ended, a recording of Ronné himself singing ‘Mr Bojangles’ played.
Guests then left the chapel giving donations to the Morecambe Winter Gardens theatre.
The funeral was also attended by members of Ronné’s family, Keith Harris’ widow Sarah, theatre impresario Duggie Chapman, dance teacher Joyce Warrington MBE, Debbie Cain the granddaughter of comedian Albert Modley, representatives of local theatre groups and many other friends and colleagues, some of whom worked with Ronné on his shows at the Ocean Rooms and the Palace Theatre in Morecambe.
The wake was held at Bare Village Club.